One of my favorite teams ever was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
That was a team that switched starting quarterbacks at midseason, shifting from Tony Banks to Trent Dilfer. Neither quarterback will go down in history as a great signal caller, but Dilfer played the final half of that season and postseason within his skill set and allowed one of the best defenses ever to do the rest.
The Ravens that year were like a submerged submarine, no one seemed to notice them coming and yet once Dilfer took over behind center, and Ray Lewis dominated on defense, Baltimore won their final 11 games including Super Bowl XXXV over the New York Giants, 34-7.
Head Coach Brian Billick was hired by the Ravens after directing the Minnesota Vikings to the most points ever in 1998 as offensive coordinator. But, in Baltimore, the Ravens success was mostly pinned to their dominating defense. Because the public loves offense, and there were plenty of high scoring teams to choose from in 2000, the Ravens played that campaign under the radar. They were underdogs in two of their three AFC postseason games that season, opening with a home win over the Denver Broncos and downing the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders as road underdogs, enroute to their romp Super Bowl win over the Giants as a three point favorite.
They opened the 2000 season with four wins, four losses and a push against the point spread, but won the final 11 games Dilfer started straight-up and compiled a 10-1 record against the line.
A few weeks ago on my weekly radio appearance on the Tolbert and Lund show on KNBR, I noted that the Tennessee Titans this season looked a lot like the Ravens of 2000. That is a team greatly undervalued by the public while their success was pinned on a rock solid defense.
It fact, a month later, I’d like to amend that the Titans are the team this season that most resemble the Ravens of 2000.
This year, John Harbaugh, who followed Billick as head coach of Baltimore, has guided his under appreciated Baltimore team while also being directed on the field by their second starting quarterback. Rookie Lamar Jackson replaced Joe Flacco after the veteran Baltimore quarterback injured his hip in the Ravens loss to Pittsburgh on November 4. Jackson has guided Baltimore to three straight wins, and even with Flacco returning to practice this week, Harbaugh appears poised to allow Jackson to hold the starting role.
The Titans may still make the playoffs this year, and do have a good defense, but the team that most resembles the 2000 Ravens this year, is the Ravens. If they are special, like that team from a couple decades ago, they will prove it this week when they meet the team with the best record in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs.
No team has garnered more headlines this year than Andy Reid’s Chiefs. Their success is based on an explosive offense triggered by second year signal caller Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs are the highest scoring team in the NFL, tallying 444 points in their first dozen games, ten of which they have won.
But when champions are crowned, more often it is the squad with the better defense that prevails in the January playoffs and February Super Bowl. The Chiefs have scored 147 more points than Baltimore this season, but the Ravens have allowed the fewest points in the league, 214, which is 113 less than Kansas City.
The public backs the Chiefs nearly every week as if there was no other choice, while the Ravens were a bet against underdog last week when they played an Atlanta Falcons team with a losing record.
After this week’s game at Arrowhead Stadium, I believe a lot more people will be noticing the Ravens, while I suggest you jump on them in front of the crowd.
Qoxhi Picks: Baltimore Ravens (+6½) over Kansas City Chiefs